From the Odyssey to The Wizard of Oz: Praiseworthy, by Alexis Wright, reviewed

Among many other prizes for her stunningly original work, Alexis Wright has won Australia’s greatest literary honour, the Miles Franklin Award, for a novel of the highest literary merit representing Australian life. It is ironic, but sadly apt, that her epic Praiseworthy should be published in the year that Australians, offered a chance to give greater political rights to their indigenous peoples, have voted not to. Everything blends together: dream and reality, donkeys and butterflies, the Odyssey and The Wizard of Oz Wright is an Aboriginal activist as well as a writer. Praiseworthy, which has already won the Queensland Literary Award for Fiction, is an impassioned environmental Ulysses of the

Has Bazball rescued — or ruined — cricket?

The date 6 June 2021 was a grim day for cricket. As the world was adjusting to life after the pandemic, a Lord’s Test with a full house felt like ‘the promised kiss of springtime’. And so it was, until the final afternoon, when New Zealand challenged England to make 273 in 75 overs. The gesture was recognised as generous by all except the faint souls in the England dressing room, rendered frit by the possibility of defeat. Thousands of spectators, bewildered by five hours of fearful prodding, withdrew their consent. Cricket has witnessed more profound changes in the past decade than in the previous 100 years With ‘the Hundred’

The crushing defeat of Australia’s divisive Voice referendum

Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, urged his fellow Australians to take ‘the opportunity to make history’ today. And they did, but not in the way that Albanese had so fervently hoped. His government’s referendum, which aimed to change the country’s constitution to entrench an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory voice to Australia’s parliament and executive government, was defeated by a majority of voters in all Australian states. The final margin, 59 per cent to 41 per cent between Yes and No, was not just decisive. It was a landslide of resounding proportions, almost a mirror reversal of the polled support for the Voice as recently as April. The biggest

Fraser Nelson

Why did Australia vote No in the Voice referendum?

I’m in Sydney for the Voice referendum result – and it’s already over. No has won, by what looks to be a 60/40 margin. So an ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice’ will not be added to Australia’s democratic apparatus after an Aboriginal-led campaign asking Australians to reject identity politics. The results had heavy overtones of Brexit: affluent cities voting Yes and the left-behind areas voting No. The Northern Territory, which has the highest concentration of aboriginal Australians, looks to have rejected the proposal by 65/35. Aussies have voted to protect the principle of everyone being equal before the law and in parliament. It’s hard to describe what the campaign

Removing PMs hardly ever ends well

As Tory MPs appear to descend into a panic of buyers’ remorse over the election of Liz Truss, they would be well advised to take a deep breath and reflect upon the absurdity of removing a leader after six weeks. As they do so, they might find it instructive to look across the sea to Australia to see the folly of constant leadership turmoil and the ever more lethal poison it injects into the bloodstream of political parties.    Over the past decade and a half, Canberra – whose politics are famously robust – earned the unenviable taunt of having become the ‘coup capital of the South Pacific,’ as both sides

Robyn Davidson explores yet another foreign country – the past

Robyn Davidson never set out to become a writer. ‘It did not form my identity,’ she tells us early on in her memoir Unfinished Woman. ‘In my own mind I had simply pulled another rabbit out of a hat. As I had done all my life with everything.’ The rabbit, in this case, is the ability to capture an exciting and complex life with insight and humour. When she decided to leave the underworld, she was sexually assaulted at knifepoint Born in 1950 on a cattle station in Queensland, Australia, Davidson was the second daughter of a handsome war hero from a privileged background. Home was a place full of

Letters: Bully XL owners are deluding themselves

Bed and breakfast Sir: Cindy Yu asks, in her ‘Leaving Hong Kong’ piece (23 September): ‘Where are they?’ I can help with that one. I live near Epsom, Surrey, and there has been a huge influx of people from Hong Kong here over the past 18 months. The area is attractive because housing is affordable in south-east terms compared, price-wise, with where they have come from. There are half a dozen very good schools in Epsom, Sutton and Cheam – and the area has very low crime rates. If anybody wants to seek positives from controlled immigration then it is here. The influx of the Hong Kongers (as Yu described

Matthew Parris, Dan Hitchens and Leah McLaren

23 min listen

Matthew Parris, just back from Australia, shares his thoughts on the upcoming referendum on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (01:08). Dan Hitchens looks at church congregations and wonders why some are on the up, while others are in a spiral of decline (08:32), and Leah McLaren describes the delights of audio and tells us why young children should be heard, but not seen (17:57). Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran

Australia’s disastrous indigenous voice referendum

My partner and I have just returned from the most magical trip. As guests of Western Australia’s tourist board we’ve driven almost 1,500 miles across the top left-hand corner of the Australian continent. This is the north-west: a landscape like nowhere else on the planet. Three times the size of England, they call it the Kimberley. I had expected to find Aboriginal people living in these landscapes. They used to, for 60,000 years Starting from a town called Broome (easy to fly there) we made it overland to Darwin in the Northern Territory. We took about ten days in an all-singing, all-dancing Toyota camper van, sometimes sleeping under the stars,

Why I’m addicted to Australian MasterChef

Why is Australian MasterChef so much better than the English version? You’d think, with a population less than a third of ours, the smaller talent pool would make the Antipodean edition look like thin gruel. But a bit like with the cricket and the rugby, size clearly isn’t everything. UK MasterChef now resembles one of those joyless austerity dishes you cobble together from crusty leftovers you found languishing in the fridge. But the Aussie one has had my entire family addicted and yearning for more for the past fortnight. I suppose it’s partly down to the way Australia sees itself. Probably this bears no resemblance to the way Australia actually

Blighted island: Strangers at the Port, by Lauren Aimee Curtis, reviewed

Lauren Aimee Curtis, born in Sydney and recently named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, sets her intriguing second book on the Aeolian island of Salina in the late 19th century, when the arrival of phylloxera destroyed the island’s vines and economy, prompting mass emigration. These facts are easy to deduce, especially with the clarification provided in the author’s note, but in the novel itself Curtis names the island ‘S’ and the time becomes ‘that spring, when the men arrived’. She entices us into the mythical realm of not-quite history. Part One is narrated by Giulia, looking back to when she was ten years old and telling her

The problems of being a Bee Gee

For quite some time, the prospect of death has held a fresh terror. The British Heart Foundation’s step-by-step guide to cardiopulmonary resuscitation advises performing chest compressions ‘to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees’. This means that the last sound some of us will ever hear is ‘Stayin’ Alive’, with our chests as the drums: Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive!Ah! ah! ah! ah!Stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive! Despite their success, the Bee Gees have always been regarded as naff. They are to pop music what Fanny Cradock was to cookery or Julian Fellowes is to the world of letters. Bob Stanley is

Watching Queen Cleopatra felt like witnessing the death of scholarship

The most controversial aspect of Netflix’s new drama-documentary Queen Cleopatra – not least in Egypt – was the casting of a black actress, Adele James, in the title role. After all, one of the few things that seems certain about Cleopatra’s early life is that she was a Macedonian Greek. Luckily, though, the show had a powerful counterargument to this awkward and Eurocentric fact. As the African-American professor Shelley P. Haley put it with a QED-style flourish, back when she was girl, her beloved (if uneducated) grandmother once said to her: ‘I don’t care what they tell you in school, Cleopatra was black.’ Watching Queen Cleopatra felt alarmingly like witnessing

Who’s killing Australia Day?

Australia Day was once a big deal Down Under, but in recent years the annual celebration has been somewhat muted. Take the Australian Open, currently running in Melbourne. The organisers have dedicated days throughout the tournament for a range of causes: there has been a Pride day and a day celebrating indigenous art and culture. But although the semi-finals are being played today, on Australia Day itself, there will be no recognition of the country’s national day. ‘We are mindful there are differing views, and at the Australian Open we are inclusive and respectful of all,’ Tennis Australia said in a statement. Tennis fans aren’t the only ones missing out:

How did climate doomsters get the Great Barrier Reef so wrong?

We are, of course, in the midst of a ‘climate emergency’ and the ‘sixth mass extinction’ of life on Earth. It is just that one of the iconic victims doesn’t seem to be playing ball just at the moment. As recently as May, environmentalists were warning that the Great Barrier Reef, the 1,500-mile coral structure off the coast of Queensland, was being doomed by warming seas. It was reported to be suffering a ‘mass bleaching’ – where the plants which live on the reef and provide food for it die off. The blame was put on warmer seas. Worse, this was the first mass bleaching event to occur in a

Must we now despise colonial architecture too?

Here’s a thing. A disturbing book about disturbing cities. And it’s full of loaded questions. Like Hezbollah, the publisher uses the silhouette of an automatic weapon as its logo. This is a trigger warning. Jonathan Swift wrote: All poets and philosphers who find  Some favourite system to their minds  In every way to make it fit  Will force all Nature to submit. So I give you Owen Hatherley, an architectural critic of the left, adept in the predictable tropes of Guardian-sprache, who exists in a world, as he often tells us, defined by concepts of colonial domination, exploitation and ocean-going misery. As Lionel Trilling observed, leftish people are always glum

Are the Australian election results a bad sign for the Tories?

Scott Morrison’s Liberals were absolutely thrashed in the Australian elections this weekend. The party’s vote collapsed, and there were big-name defeats, with the man touted as Morrison’s successor – Josh Frydenberg – ousted in Kooyong, a suburb which had been in the party’s hands for 121 years. Whatever went wrong for the Morrison government, Saturday’s results might have relevance closer to home, even if teasing out domestic lessons from elections on the other side of the world is problematic. Australia is a different country, with a different political culture and a different electoral system. Scott Morrison was also an unloveable figure — stolid, gaffe-prone and not outwardly empathetic. When women marched

How Scott Morrison was defeated in Australia

‘Scott Morrison is empathetic – without the “em”.’ Those words, spoken on Friday by the Labor party frontbencher Jason Clare, on a national breakfast programme, perfectly encapsulated how Scott Morrison was defeated in the Australian election on Saturday. Morrison wasn’t saved by his economic management (this Friday Australia’s unemployment rate was confirmed as 3.9 per cent, the lowest in 50 years). Nor by the fact that Australia’s post-Covid economic bounce-back was one of the biggest and quickest in the OECD. He wasn’t saved by his government’s management of the Covid pandemic either, which contained the threat, kept Covid-related death rates exceptionally low and achieved a national double vaccination rate of

New Aussie rules: Conservative values have fallen out of fashion

The election campaign is under way in Australia, barbs are being exchanged, candidates denigrated and abused, and promises – many of which are just fantastic in the literal sense of the word – are being made. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who is the leader of the Liberal party, is being challenged by the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese. Although Morrison has the edge over Albanese as preferred prime minister, neither is much loved. The leaders are unlikely to be a decisive issue in the election. What is the deeper mood of the country? That needs to be put into its historical context. Ever since the mid-1970s, Australians have expected political

Could Australia’s answer to Corbyn become PM?

While the main electoral attraction of the moment is the French presidential showdown between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, it is not the only significant election underway in the western world. On 21 May, Australia goes to the polls. The contest is between the nominally centre-right coalition of the Liberal and National parties led by prime minister Scott Morrison, and the Australian Labor party led by a long-term, socialist left-wing MP, Anthony Albanese. On the face of it, Morrison should be re-elected on his record. In his three-year term, he has seen Australia through natural disasters, including the massive bushfires affecting the south-east of the country in 2019 and